Crucible of Words – Ban List Speculation by Cyrus Bales
The ban lists for magic were last updated in September, so we are roughly due for one in the next month or so. This week I’ll take a quick look over what I think could/should change and why/why not in Standard, Legacy and Modern.
There been a lot of talk about Thragtusk since rotation, however the format seems to have adjusted really well. Whilst I think it was a mistake to print him, it doesn’t seem oppressive enough to warrant any kind of ban, and for the whole time he’s legal, his flying counterpart Thundermaw Hellkite is making light work of the life gain and helping to balance the format.
Whilst there are a great deal of powerful cards like Sphinx’s Revelation that prop up whole archetypes, there isn’t anything that gratuitously warps the format at present and we are about to get an influx of new cards to keep the format fresh. I predict there will be no changes to the Ban list for standard, unless a horrible mistake creeps through in Gatecrash, which seems unlikely to me.
Legacy is pretty healthy at the moment, the cards from Return To Ravnica have finally slotted their places in the metagame, building up a new pillar of the format in Deathrite Shaman. Abrupt Decay has also helped shape the meta, and we have several different archetypes, the biggest new winners being BUG and JUND. The diversity of the format shows it health as there are many ways to take down a tournament in Legacy, not like the days of Survival-Vine, where playing anything else was frankly silly, or Mystical Tutor decks that once dominated as well.
As such, I believe the current Ban list is fine, and I see no reason for an unbanning or a banning at this format at the present time.
Now, this is where we can expect to see changes in my opinion.
Ban – Deathrite Shaman has become the best card in the format(also one of the best few cards in Legacy as well), to the point that other one drops just feel underwhelming. Similar to how Wild Nacatl invalidated almost every other one drop creature before it was banned. Whilst Grim Lavamancer does a fair job at interacting, the fact is, a lot of decks are having to burn key removal on a one drop guy, so they can often end up behind in a long way right from the off. The splash hate that he provides for graveyard based strategies restricts a bit of diversity as Vengevine and re-animator decks have fallen off the map. This one drop is miles above the curve, and anyone who plays green or black needs to splash to get full use out of him.
Another reason for banning Deathrite is down the policy that Wizards has shown when it comes to Modern already. They don’t want Modern to become “Legacy-light”, where the decks are just mirrors of the decks in Legacy. The Jund deck in Legacy is now almost identical to the Modern version, aside from the manabase being better duals, Wastelands over manlands, and Hymn to Tourach over Inquisition of Kozilek. The creature package is the same, as are most of the other spells, Wizards have been pretty good at keeping Modern from being different to Legacy and I feel there are two good reasons to ban Deathrite Shaman in the format to keep it healthy and unique.
Unban – Bitterblossom was a great bogeyman during it’s time in Standard and even Extended, however I feel Modern is now right for it to return. Control decks are virtually non-existent in Modern, even the UW control deck plays like a tempo-y midrange deck, throwing down Geist of Saint Traft to knock out a quick clock. Bitterblossom would help Faeries become a contender again, and allow for a more controlling deck to take the stage. There is plenty of tools for decks to take out Bitterblossom these-days, thanks to Abrupt Decay, people have main deck answers to stop the card becoming dominant, or break through a counter-screen. Other uncounterable spells are on the way in Gatecrash for each guild and Loxodon Smiter is a very real threat against a deck wanting to lean on counterspells.
In terms of keeping Modern diverse and interesting, Bitterblossom would really add a new angle to the format, although it would increase the power of Black White tokens, but I imagine the hugely underrated and underplayed Engineered Explosives would have a thing or two to say about it. Bitterblossom isn’t really a good enough card for Legacy either, so it would be bringing back a classic powerhouse to constructed play, without it being too good or unfair.
The Rest? – People talk about wanting Jace, The Mind Sculptor back in Modern, and whilst this would give control a boost, the card is incredibly powerful and probably deserves to stay banned. Jace is also a huge part of the Legacy format, so bringing him back would make Modern creep towards “Legacy-lite” again, which is not what we or Wizards want.
Ancestral Visions is often voiced as being worthwhile to be allowed to play in Modern, and I can see this to a degree, but we can all work out how the format will change with it’s impact. Jund will splash blue, and try to cascade into it with Bloodbraid Elf. I feel it doesn’t offer enough to the format to warrant coming back, it’s not really that needed for control decks, whereas Bitterblossom provides a much more interesting dynamic; also is still sees play in Legacy thanks to Shardless Agent, so again it would creep the format towards another format a bit too much.
Chrome Mox is the only other card that gets a thought from people about unbanning, but a quick look at all the combo decks in Modern shows you how bad an idea it is to speed up their clock by an additional turn. Whilst it would help some kind of Tezzerator deck come into existence, it’s not worth the hassle it would bring in the form of combo decks.
And that’s it for this week, I’m off to GP Bilbao this weekend so I’ll have a tournament report for you next week!
Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.